Summer is officially here, so what better way to celebrate than with some new tunes? We’ve compiled for your listening pleasure, a rad playlist to kick off the summer. We’ll post a Soundcloud playlist each and every week with our favorite tracks to share with you and your friends. This week’s playlist features over 35 tracks from Little Dragon, Ta-ku, IAMNOBODI, and many more. So here’s to long road trips, afternoons at the beach, barbecues, and late nights with friends. Listen here, and make sure to follow us on Soundcloud and keep an eye out for what else we have in store.
Written by Chantel Genest
Photos and video by Tony Santos
It is seven thirty at night and as students make their way home and the campus slowly calms, the Creative Arts building is in the midst of an artistic collaboration that will bring the college grounds back to life. Local musicians are arriving in the radio
lounge, a crew of audio and video producers are setting up a makeshift stage, and in just
a couple of hours the hosts of Native SF will bring an all-out musical roar to KSFS
SF State students Ryan McGeary, Phil Di Leo, and Garrett Peters co-host a program on the university’s KSFS radio station every Tuesday from nine to eleven. The trio brings an innovative show with live performance to listeners each week. With the
help of a crew and the skills these student producers have, fans get not only live radio
entertainment from the station but also video content on YouTube to revel in the local
music whenever they want.
This student-ran radio program is part of SF States Broadcast and Electronic
Communication Arts (BECA) department. The department provides real life skills and
experience to radio and television students each semester. Students get substantial
training and education in areas including TV and radio broadcast, video production,
audio production, sound art, aesthetics, multimedia, writing for media, legal issues in
media, and media management.
“Though this building is old the resources for students here are incredible,” says
Gina Baleria, SF State online media and radio lecturer. “The full-fledge TV shows and
radio station are amazing. The perfect storm of opportunity is right here.”
The Creative Arts building houses one of Northern California’s biggest
production facilities for radio, television, and multimedia. With three color television
studios, a music-recording studio, radio station, video and audio post-production labs,
and an online lab, everything needed for students to practice and perfect their art form is readily available.
With so much going on in just one building, it seems crazy that many people on
campus do not know about BECA. Inspired and motivated students populate all of
department’s emphases and one of the biggest downfalls is a student coming to SF State
and not being aware that this program exists and missing out on a number of invaluable
“At the end of each semester I get students in my office lamenting about
graduating,” says Jeff Jacoby, the department’s radio director and advisor. “Not because
they are not happy to be graduating, but because they were not able to take all of the
BECA classes that they wanted to.”
Jacoby came to SF State and took over the KSFS radio station in 2006. While he
entered into a very well known department that was operating on all cylinders and had a
community of generally very happy students, he had some major goals he wanted to fulfill.
“I wanted to change the culture of KSFS so that the radio station became student
property,” says Jacoby. “It became their radio station—not mine, not the department’s,
and not SF State’s. That is how you get students to connect and engage with their
education, by giving them control.”
Each semester Jacoby starts his advanced KSFS radio class by informing his students that he has three sound studios and that everything they do in those studios will
be broadcasted over the web and played for an audience. He asks them one question: I
am going to hand you the keys to this facility, what are you going to do with it?
“I want them to push the envelope of what radio is and what radio can be,” says
Jacoby. “Radio is changing so dramatically and its definition needs rewriting.”
Ryan McGeary is one radio student who took Jacoby’s words to heart. As the
original creator of Native SF, McGeary wanted to expand his show and make it
something new and exciting and challenging. He was ready and willing to invest himself
and all of his time into making it something great.
“It started off as a playlist program because that was the obvious choice,
everyone was doing that,” says McGeary. “But I have been playing in the Bay Area
music scene for eight years or so and it made sense to use those connections to make my
show more interesting.”
Into his first semester producing Native SF, McGeary decided to bring in bands
during his program to play live in the studio. As fate would have it, the first band he
booked included Phil Di Leo. After that performance, Di Leo jumped on the chance to be
a part of the program and has played a major role in it ever since.
“I liked what he was doing and wanted to help out any way that I could and that
turned into what we have today,” says Di Leo.
With two sets of connections and two ideas of what great music is, the program
has been able to see a range of different bands and genres. Along with seeking out bands
to book, McGeary has been reached out to many times when musicians hear about their
show and want to be on. There is no limitation on the talent that comes in as long as the
team believes they are local and have quality music they are more than excited to have
“No one is big or small, it is all about the music and exposing new music to
people,” says McGeary. “Although, we do like to think really, really big and not limit
ourselves to any level of fame either.”
The third member of the group, Garrett Peters, is the production manager of the
entire KSFS station and co-hosts an additional radio show called Blare It! on Saturdays
from noon to two with Danny Molina. He and Di Leo are also in a band called Edward’s
Crossing together. After initially assisting McGeary as part of his managerial roles,
Peters liked the direction the show seemed to be heading and decided he wanted a take
on a permanent role with Native SF. McGeary and Di Leo were more than welcoming.
“We are a good team, we all can visualize similar images in each other’s head and
understand what we are talking about,” says Di Leo. “We are all open to new things and
are all very receptive to each others ideas.”
The team shows up hours early each Tuesday evening to set up for the broadcast.
Microphones and cords are placed all around the room, having to be checked and double-
checked and triple-checked. Cameras are set up; lighting is arranged around the lounge.
When the band shows up they brief them, do a sound check, audio and video record a
five to six song set while live on the radio, and have to clean all the work up in thirty to forty five minutes to be out of the Creative Arts building by eleven. After that, all of the separate elements from production are assembled; at least three songs for each of the live bands are edited and put up on YouTube.
“In our experience the live radio is not the most lucrative part of it,” says
McGeary. “We try to put content out in multiple platforms and have multimedia out
there, not just audio.”
The co-hosts have melded into a driven, creative, and collaborative unit and it
shows both on air and off. In between hours of setting up a play space, grueling over
perfect sound and audio checks and the never-ending editing of mass content, these
friends give off a constant circle of comradery and good-natured shit talking.
As all three members share similar backgrounds being musicians themselves, they
have an understanding of what bands want and expect and need to perform well. When
the bands come in, keeping a good vibe and staying professional with what they are
doing makes the program go smoothly.
“Native SF is a three-man production team that strives to bring unheard and enjoyable music to people in a presentable way that is both beneficial to be viewed in the
audience perspective and the bands perspective,” says Di Leo. “We are a middle-man for
bands that are trying to speak to their fans.”
As much as these guys do to run the show, they definitely give credit to the other
students who come out and help each week. There are so many things that need to be
done and just three people couldn’t possibly do it without recruiting help from outside
majors like photojournalism and cinema. A core group of about six other SF State
students show up with cameras and lights and whatever is needed.
“It has been rewarding to see those people come out of the woodworks become
the people that we rely on every week,” says McGeary.
When it comes down to it, Native SF is doing exactly what it is meant to. As their
advisor Jacoby discusses, you have to push the boundaries, give a definition to radio, and own your product while doing it.
“Phil and Garrett and Ryan, what they are doing, what Native SF is doing on
radio, is classic BECA student behavior,” says Jacoby. “That is exactly what I want
students to be doing.”
KSFS has over sixty scheduled programs playing one-hour to two-hour sessions
throughout the week between eight in the morning and eleven at night on ksfsmedia.net,
which is also run by BECA students. No shows are exactly the same, and the free form
radio structure of the station allows for a range of topics from Travis Schilling’s
Countdown to Coachella to Rocky Matthews & Brionne Bauchman’s The Rocky Hour
Show, a sex education and relationship advice talk show.
“You can have a show about books, about all hip-hop, a talk show, a sport show,
whatever you want,” says BECA senior and KSFS General Manager Michael Payton.
“Basically every hour you are on the station you are doing something you want to be
Even with all of the freedom that BECA radio students receive in their artistic
process, the faculty guiding them is what allows for such a productive and creative space.
Jacoby does impose FCC regulations on them because it is exactly what will have
to be used after they graduate and “that is good training.” He also imposes the idea that
they have an audience and that they should serve their audience.
“I think this experience will prepare me for the radio world after I graduate
because the teachers really focus the coursework on things that will help us in the real
world,” says Sara Bailey, co-host of Dopest of the Decades on KSFS.
Some may think that radio is a dying medium, but the students and faculty in the
BECA department and on KSFS know that that is not the case. Even as terrestrial radio
declines in the shadow of Internet radio, the station here is already set up on the web and the moment online radio is available in the car, KSFS will already be there.
In truth, what radio is cannot really be said. With the use of multimedia, podcasts
and YouTube, and the enormous available outlets on the Internet to get content out, radio
is more than what it used to be. To be in the industry students have no option but to
become multifaceted and that is exactly the aim that the BECA department has for them.
“Radio is definitely morphing into something different but it is so alive and so
vibrant,” says Baleria. “Everyone is still listening, everyone is still tuning in.”
Like the hosts of Native SF, creativity and innovation is spilling out of the
Creative Arts building every day. The BECA department is highly renowned all around
the country and students leave with vast experience and opportunity to succeed. You can
find a BECA student interning or working at almost any radio station in the city and the
professor connections and achievements only put them even more ahead of the crowd.
“They show us how we can do it,” says Peters. “They give us the tools and we pick up those tools and we do something cool.”
Written by Katie Mullen
Photo by Tony Santos
It’s a beautiful Saturday in San Francisco. The sun has come out to play and so have you. You and a group of friends decide that the only thing to compliment the beautiful day at hand is a well-crafted beer. You guys are in luck, you live in a city dotted with some of the finest micro-breweries out there.
Beer has quickly gained popularity in the past seven to ten. More people are learning about it, attempting to make it, and simply drinking more of it. Home brewing was not made legal in the United States until 1978. This is not to say that home brewed beers were a pigment of the imagination though, they were just a well-kept secret.
Now, it seems that every other person you talk to will tell you how they are attempting to brew at home or that on of their friends are. It use to be taboo for girls to drink beer, it was a drink for manly men. It was the alcohol of football games and arm wrestling tournaments, and besides it had too many calories for girls to drink it, right? Well not anymore.
Beer has become a coveted and respected drink. Its no longer just the drink of beer pong and beer bongs. It is a hand-crafted alcohol that people smell before tasting to get a whiff of the hops in it, they sip it and attempt to decipher hints of coffee or hazelnut, perhaps there is a hint of fruitiness or citrus.
Perhaps the most trending type of beer is the infamous IPA, short for India pale ale. You may have head people say, “oh, its so hoppy, I love it!” and may of you may have shook your head agreeing but really had no idea what on earth they were referring to. Well let me break it down for you. Hops are one of the few main ingredients found in all beers. It is simply the flower of a hop plant, which is part of the hemp family. It gives off a bitter taste, which is what many IPA lovers search for. Shockingly, there are over three hundred different types of hops grown anywhere from Germany to California and Washington.
Hops were originally used to balance the beer. Grains that are used in beers are extremely sweet and sugary. So, by adding hops and bitterness, brewers were able to create more of a balanced flavor that was less overwhelming for the drinker. The IPA took that a step further to overpower a beer with the hops.
Here is some information about IPAs to impress your friends with. India pale ales came into existence around the 18th century. A man named George Hodgson would ship beer, his pale ales, from England into India. Because the voyage was long and hops acts as a natural preservative, he would add extra hops in order to help the beer stay fresh. The taste because increasingly demanded and born from the pale ale came India pale ale we know and love today.
Currently, the West Coast IPA has become a new way to brew using the process of dry hopping. Which in short gives you the aroma and flavor of the different hops creating different tastes in beer. This is why no two IPAs will taste the same. And our recommendation would be to try them all!
San Francisco is proud to be the home of Anchor Steam Brewery but it is also home to many other amazing breweries that have somehow remained under the radar for many years. With beer now coming into the social scene, they are gaining popularity and foot traffic but they are still considered local gems.
Some of these breweries are Cellarmaker Brewing Company of Howard St., ThirstyBear Brewing company in the Financial District, and a Giants fan’s home away from home: 21st Amendment. But at the top of the local beer guru’s list would have to be Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Triple VooDoo Brewery, and Southern Pacific Brewing.
Speakeasy is a locally brewed and mostly locally sold beer. It specialized in Ales and Lagers. Ale beers are brewed from malted barley and yeast. It is fermented very fast, which gives it a fuller taste and is often times fruity. These also contain hops to balance the malt. Lagers ferment much more slowly than ales. They are brewed with bottom fermenting yeast then are stored at cool temperatures to mature their taste. The hops are much easier to taste in a lager than in an ale.
Speakeasy is a fun place to spend a day. Sampling beers and talking to the servers and bartenders that could talk to you for days about the beers they currently have and beers they use to carry. “I love going to Speakeasy not only because I love their beer but because I always seem to learn something about beer whether it be about how it is made, how it is processed, or what is in it,” says Michael Herndon, a previous SF State student now living in the city. If you are interested in the process of how ales and lagers are brewed, the tour would be the place for you to go. But, take a pen and a notepad because brewing is a long and complicated process. Luck for us, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers has it down to a science, literally.
Next on the list would be Triple Voodoo Brewery and Tap Room. If the name alone isn’t enough to draw you in there, you are in luck because I have more information for you. Berkley student and beer enthusiast, Derek Campbell says, “Every time I come into the city, I make it a priority to come into Voodoo. I hate to be corny but I really do think they cast a spell on me or put a potion in their brews or something.”
What is cool about Triple Voodoo is that you can have food from local restaurants delivered to you as you are sitting and enjoying a nice, cold, well-crafted beer. The brewery has sixteen beers on tap that rotate, meaning that they are not all available year round. This is kind of fun because if you are use to drinking a beer but it is not on tap when you go in, you are forced to step outside the box.
And finally, probably the least known and talked about brewery would be Southern Pacific Brewery. This brewery is awesome because it is not what you are expecting when you see the building. It also has some tasty food to compliment the beers they have on tap. One woman’s favorite is the Porter, it is on tap and when that tap runs out, it is gone for a while. “I literally cried one time when I came in here and the Porter tap was gone,” says Raimi Mitchell-Young who lives in the city. “The thought of it was the only thing that got me through my day, it is the best beer I have yet to find in the city, and it was gone!” She also went on to say that the black bean burger and sage fries are to die for.
These breweries only scratch the surface of what San Francisco has to offer the beer obsessed individuals. But to get into it would take hours to read through. The best advice is to start at a microbrewery, spark up a conversation with a bartender or fellow beer drinker, and ask them what other breweries they enjoy. Then the fun part comes, go explore them! There are so many beers out there that it can be daunting, but the more you try, the more you will know and the more you can narrow the search for your personal perfect beer. Beware of the sours though, rumor has it that they grow on you if you can drink a full glass in one sitting, emphasis on the “if”… Now go forth and taste!
Written and Photographed by Nicole Crittenden
Summer is here! Hopefully this means you will have a little more time to relax and enjoy San Francisco’s foggy climate (and maybe even a few sunny days). Whether you are escaping the chilly weather outside, or just need a bit of crafty inspiration, here are a few very simple “do it yourself” ideas to help you throw a fun dinner party. To remind me of summers back home, I chose to go with a floral theme. I started by making a flower tablecloth out of butcher paper and paints. This makes for easy clean up after your party and provides a touch of color to your table. If you are going with a simple theme, leaving the butcher paper white can look very classy, and is affordable.
For the hors d’oeuvres I chose to keep it simple and popped popcorn over the stove. I made simple sugar cookies and bought a few artichokes and berry candies. I also baked a simple yellow cake for dessert.
I had a few items lying around, like yellow and mint candle sticks, a huge paper crepe flower, polka dot balloons, fresh flowers and string lights. I set these on and around the party table. String lights and candles provide a romantic and cozy atmosphere once the sun goes down.
Mobiles add height and dimension and can be a conversation piece. I’m a huge fan of simple lines and geometric shapes, so I made this very easy mobile out of wooden dowels and small styrofoam balls. This is one of my favorite crafts because the designs and shapes are endless.
It’s always nice to be able to have your guests leave with something, even if it’s small. I decided to make flower headbands with inexpensive plastic headbands I found at Walgreens and artificial flowers I picked up at the craft store. I saw some really beautiful ribbon and decided to attach them to the headbands for extra embellishment. This is optional.
I finished by sprucing up the fiddle leaf fig and draping streamers around the picture frame. I then set up a few bottles of my favorite summer wines put on a nice record.
Happy crafting everyone!
Supplies: Plastic headband, artificial flowers, decorative ribbons, a hot glue gun, and wire cutters
Step 1: cut the flower stems to the same width as your headband.
Step 2: hot glue the stem to the top of the headband.
Step 3: continue cutting the stems and glueing them to the headband.
Optional: tie the ribbons in a knot around the headband and hot glue them in place.
DIY Floral Tablecloth
Supplies: Butcher paper, paints, and paintbrushes
Step 1: Mix your background colors together (I used forest green, tan, pineapple yellow, and white to make a pretty sage green).
Step 2: Use a feathery brush and long brush strokes to fill in the background.
Step 3: Paint yellow and pink dots on your paper in random order to make the flowers.
Step 4: Paint leaves in a bolder green than your background between you flowers and let it dry.
DIY Geometric Mobile
Supplies: Wooden dowels, styrofoam balls, and hot glue
Step 1: Poke a hole in your first styrofoam ball with the wooden dowel.
Step 2: Put hot glue in the hole and replace the wooden dowel, making sure it holds. Continue this step while you create your wonderful geometric shapes!
Written by Marianna Barrera
Photos By Ryan Lebrich
As soon as the sun sets, the mob slowly starts to gather between Sansome and Commercial Streets. Soon hundreds of people are gathered on that same corner being loud, drinking, and drawing attention to themselves.
“Flask Mob! Flask Mob!” chants everyone as soon as founders Evan Thompson and Sabina Farrugia show up and begin to lead the way. Once at their first stop, everybody poses for a group picture and smoke bombs are distributed. In no time, the air is filled with smoke and the flash of cameras is all around.
Filling the streets by the hundreds, they drink, smoke, laugh, and photograph anything around them. They are a family; they are Flask Mob—some of the Bay Area’s most creative minds gathered and ready to take over the streets of San Francisco.
Flask Mob started as an idea after Thompson’s friends and online followers constantly asked to go shoot with him. Thompson is known for his truly invigorating pictures of the San Francisco skylines, not fearing boundaries and always going above and beyond to capture the perfect shot.
“There’s always new spots to find, and there’s always new buildings,” says Thompson, “so once we found a name and a reason to meet up, that’s how it organically started.”
The idea behind Flask Mob was to create an event where people with an interest in photography could gather and learn to take pictures in places where Thompson usually does, all while having fun and drinking.
“We’re creative people,” says Farrugia, “So we wanted a forum for people to hang out, chill and network, and do stuff that we like to do.”
The catchy name was created by Farrugia, taking the idea of flash mobs and making it their own.
“Flash mobs meet and dance at a random location. Flask Mob would meet and drink at a random location,” says Thompson.
One of the main group objectives is for people to network with each other, in a more nontraditional way.
“We want it to be fun, because I have to do networking stuff all the time, and a lot of it is stuck up, wine, suits—not fun,” says Farrugia, “creative people typically aren’t’ the people who want to be in suits with wine discussing what they can work on together.”
Flask Mob was the answer, it would be a networking event in which people could still have fun and not have to worry about traditional networking stuff.
“So we started telling people to pack a flask, pack a camera and show up,” says Farrugia.
The first meetup took place last November with about seventy people. Since then, word of the mob has been spreading quickly through social media, increasing the number of attendees by the hundreds.
“Everyone was so about it from the get go,” says Faruggia, “It became a lot bigger than we had planned. “
The mob now has almost four thousand followers on Instagram, and more than five hundred email sign-ups for their upcoming website.
Throughout the night, the streets and alleys of San Francisco are illuminated by flares, spinning steel wool, and everyone’s excitement. Bystanders were confused, their cars slowing as they tried to figure out who this group of people was. Employees would come out and ask who they were as the mob passed by their business.
The group made five stops in their route. Leaders of the mob tried to control the crowd by separating and communicating with each other via walkie-talkies.
One of the bigger problems the mob has had to deal with, is the constant tagging.
“It got so out of hand with the tagging that we actually pulled the plug. We said it’s done you guys,” says Farrugia about one of their previous meets.
“We do encourage expressing yourself, but there are ways to do it,” said Farrugia, “A lot of our friends are graffiti artists, and I have tagged back in the day, but that just has to be separate from what were doing, mainly because we can shut down really quickly.”
Flask Mob is trying to keep under the radar as much as they can, thus staying out of trouble is a big concern. John Kim, a former social media follower of Thompson was taken in after the first meetup, and is part of crowd control for the mob.
“The crowd started to get bigger, and I kind of tried to control it on my own,” says Kim. “It’s hard, but I’ll try to start at one section and try to keep them in line, and we communicate with walkie-talkies too, because nobody answers their phones.”
Kylle Thomasson walked with his guitar and was singing with others throughout the night. The crowd cheered for him and sang along, bringing even more enthusiasm to the already rowdy group. At multiple points, he provided music for a free style rap performed by two other attendees.
“I feel like I’m family. It’s like I came here and was accepted, you feel me?” says one of the freestyle rappers and first time attendees, Michael “Burnt Toast” Young. “ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh he’s an outsider’ I felt welcome here.”
The night continues until past midnight, the crowd’s enthusiasm going strong and by the end of the night, after a few security guards kicked everyone out of the Yerba Buena gardens, the mob slowly started dispersing.
Flask Mob events are held once a month, and every other month such as last month, instead of walking the streets, they will gather at a spot to network and drink with each other.
“Flask Mob, as it grows, it’s a learning experience in how we coordinate the large amounts of people,” said Thompson.
Thompson felt as if he was not able to communicate with everyone by just doing the walking Flask Mob. His goal for the alternate meet ups is to be able to know everyone in the group, and have a chance for everybody be able to talk to each other as well.
“I like how we’re meeting all these new people and learning from each other,” said Andre Soto at his first Flask Mob event, “We get to make a connection with everyone, and it’s a way of connecting with your community. It’s perfect.”
For now, the renegade group is staying in San Francisco, but Thompson is already working on expanding the mob and, by the end of the year, plans to take over 3 more cities.
Their next stop: Los Angeles.
Written By Ben Tasner
Photos by Lorisa Salvatin
A child of two deaf parents, Meir Schneider, was born with cataracts, glaucoma, astigmatism, and nystagmus. As a young boy he underwent five unsuccessful surgeries that shattered and scarred his eye lenses. He was declared permanently blind. Despite being told that his condition was hopeless he was determined to see. Now he drives.
Schneider spent his childhood reading and performing schoolwork in Braille. At the age of seventeen his life changed dramatically when he met an instructor who introduced him to the Bates Method of eye exercises, a natural vision therapy developed by William Bates in the late nineteenth century.
Schneider diligently practiced the Bates Method and combined it with his own regiment of self-massage and movement. Within six months he began to recognize visual objects for the first time and today he holds an unrestricted California driver’s license.
“Working on my eyes was at first painful,” says Schneider, who attended SF State from 1978-79. “Then slowly as I built more and more vision it became more normal for me. We worked and I improved my vision from something like 20/2000 to today about 20/70.”
Schneider ability to see defies the basis of modern vision diagnosis. An optometrist might take one look at his eyes and immediately conclude that he is blind because his lenses admit less than one percent light. Yet he can read the eye chart and he drives throughout the Bay Area on a regular basis.
“To be in a place where I can drive is beyond anyone’s imagination,” says Schneider. “The day that I got my driver’s license was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It was like a prize. The biggest prize I could possibly get.”
Despite the rising rates of vision failure Schneider’s story of natural vision improvement runs cross current to the swell of traditional vision correction. The National Eye Institute reports the number of Americans who report some form of visual impairment is expected to double by 2030. But as the rates of vision failure continue to increase, mainstream medicine remains stagnant in its approach.
“Medicine does nothing about it,” says Schneider. “What happens with medicine is that they give you crutches to deal with it, but they are not doing anything to help the essential reason why vision gets worse.”
Schneider challenges the notion that vision failure is irreversible and the prolific tendency to over-correct through the use of lenses.
“The whole world is resistant,” says Schneider. “They say [vision failure] is a process of life, and that’s that.”
Medical professionals state nearsightedness, farsightedness and other refractive errors are a result of eye shape and a hardening of the lens, which cannot be changed. Schneider sites poor blood circulation to the head, stress, bad habits and environmental influences as the causes of most vision problems and believe that people can improve their vision if they explore these factors.
At his School for Self Healing on the corner of Santiago and 48th Street in San Francisco, Schneider, 59, analyzes habits like excessive close viewing, the prevalence of shoulder tension, and other symptoms of modern times, which have led to increasing rates of vision failure.
“When people were illiterate there were very few people with nearsightedness,” says Schneider. “When people started to read some of them became nearsighted, and when people used the computer many more become nearsighted.”
He has taken his experience and research, and translated it into a program of self-healing. He works with patients individually to improve their vision, leads group workshops periodically, and travels throughout the world helping others achieve the unthinkable.
“The reality is that traditional optometry and ophthalmology could do nothing for him,” says Erik Peper, professor at the Institute of Holistic Health at SF State, who met Schneider in 1976. “Here’s somebody who had horrible vision from birth, but he did not listen to a culture that told him he had no hope. He’s an exemplar of what is possible when we really have a drive and desire to achieve whatever we want.”
The exercises Schneider teaches draw on principles derived from the Bates method with the addition of massage, relaxation, and various forms of bodywork. The physical exercises are an important component of vision improvement because he says the eyes are a function of the body and cannot be treated separately, and blood flow to the eyes must be developed.
At his school near the ocean he has fourteen massage tables, a sauna, and a trampoline. Schneider leads his patients on Ocean Beach excursions and instructs them to walk backward in the sand. He wants people to activate muscles they rarely use and to relax the muscles they frequently use. He helps patients learn to isolate muscles and then unite the parts.
After relaxation has been cultivated, Schneider leads his patients through the eight principles of natural vision improvement: deep relaxation, adjustment to light, distance viewing, looking at details, periphery, balance of two eyes, balance use within each eye, and body-eye coordination.
He says that a myopic lifestyle leads to poor vision habits. Staring at a computer, or remaining transfixed on a cell phone for too long decrease the eyes’ abilities over time. He also believes that sunglasses are anti-productive, but he does have one use for them.
“We break sunglasses, that’s the only use I have for sunglasses,” says Schneider frankly. “We break one lens and put duck tape on the other lens, and it becomes an obstructive lens and we use that.
He frequently rubs his eyes, gently massaging them throughout the day, a technique he teaches his patients as well. Night walks and sunning are other practices he employees to strengthen various parts of the eye.
“The body sees well. We do things that make it not see well and we don’t compensate for what we do, and by not compensating we create all these problems.”
“Yoga for the Eyes” is a series of YouTube videos in which Schneider demonstrates how a person can quickly improve their vision. One of the methods, developed by Bates, but practiced by Tibetan yogis for thousands of years, is a palming practice, in which a patient cups his hands over his eyes. Schneider says that this is the most integral of all eye exercises because it both rests and energizes the eyes at the same time.
Lindsay Cartwright, a massage therapist and Schneider’s former operations manager, was hesitant to buy in at first.
“I was skeptical because his story is very grand,” she says. “But you see it’s not only true for him, but for a lot of the clients we have coming here. They have results that are just as miraculous. It’s not often the big stories you hear are true.”
Jeanne Harvey, 67, of Quebec City, Canada, had pseudo laminar dystrophy, which her ophthalmologist recommended treating with surgery. If left untreated, pseudo holes can lead to blindness. While waiting for the surgery she found out about Meir Schneider in a book, flew to San Francisco for one of his workshops and began practicing his exercises. Within a month her ophthalmologist told her she no longer needed surgery.
“My mother was blind, two of my uncles were blind, and my husband is blind,” says Harvey. “I’m very grateful to find Schneider and his work.”
Schneider has been acknowledged by many leading experts in the vision field, including August Reader III, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at California Pacific Medical Center. Reader says that he has personally seen improvement in his patients who have worked with Schneider.
Doctor Edward Kondrot, an ophthalmologist and homeopathic physician, is interested in Schneider’s work and focuses his own vision research on reversing chronic eye disease, with an emphasis on light. He says that ‘light at night’ is not normal for humans and it is the most dramatic environmental change in the last thirty years, a direct result of computer use and artificial light. He says the intensity of this light is much higher than natural light and the wavelength is much shorter—a dangerous combination.
In the face of miraculous results, Schneider, Kondrot and other natural vision healers remain ostracized by the traditional vision world.
Kondrot says mainstream ophthalmology and natural vision therapy are “two different approaches to healing and they will never agree.”
Schneider says the fathers of ophthalmology in America decided that vision cannot improve and the issue has never been revisited.
“It’s a false decision,” says Schneider. “I’ve disproven it thousands of times so far.”
He thinks most ophthalmologists and optometrists are merely students of their teachers and ignorant to natural vision improvement, but he also thinks there’s more to it than that. He says his accomplishments challenge the entire system and people are scared.
“The whole school is to give you a correction and you’re brought up in that thinking,” says Alfred Lee, 93, an optometrist on Sacramento Street in San Francisco.
Lee says that optical schools are starting to come around to natural vision techniques, but not too long ago an optometrist could get his license revoked if he tried something like what Schneider is doing.
“At that time if anything is out of the realm or not the way they want it you’re blacklisted,” says Lee.
The UC system came close to conducting a research study on Schneider’s techniques but eventually backed out. He’s still waiting for someone else to come calling. Meanwhile he continues to help people get out of glasses.
Schneider’s School for Self Healing is intended primarily for people with vision problems, but also for those who wish to improve various muscular issues, learn embodiment techniques, and increase mindfulness. It has a vocation school status, so not only does he work with patients, but he also trains people to teach his method of healing. Schneider has one-hundred seven instructors teaching his method of vision improvement in Brazil and many others teaching throughout the United States. His new book Vision for Life is available worldwide, printed in English, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Hebrew and Czech.
Unfortunately, he says there is one downside for the people that visit him.
“They have to contend with my terrible jokes.”
By Nicole Dobarro
I was naked in the darkest space I have ever been in. I willingly shut the door but my fingers refused to let go of the handle. Instead they only gripped tighter. My mind filled the seemingly silent space with an intensely loud, body-shuddering noise. As the first couple seconds passed the sound of my breath grew loud, competing with the rhythm of my racing heartbeat. I voluntarily decided that I was going to stay in this pitch-black, salt-water filled tank, also known as a sensory deprivation chamber, for an entire sixty minutes. It was a decision I started to regret.
After what felt like ten minutes, my mind progressed from a state of panic to reason. I was only naked in a soundproof tank where I couldn’t see anything. I thought, “How bad could it be?” My fingers finally released the death-grip I had around door handle and I began to sink back into the salt water. As I surrendered, my entire body was instantly lifted by the insane amount of Epsom salt mixed into the water. I was experiencing my first “float” and it felt really weird.
The story of sensory deprivation chambers begins in the 1950s with Dr. Jonathan Cunningham Lilly. He was sort of a fringe science jack-of-all-trades. He was a physician, biophysicist, neuroscientist, inventor and author. Many call him a pioneer in the counter-culture of modern science, while others would simply call him batshit crazy. Besides being the inventor of sensory deprivation chambers, Lilly is more famously known for his research done on communicating with dolphins and doing a lot of LSD in the name of science. His so-called eccentricity went on to inspire films like Ken Russell’s film Altered States and Mike Nichols’ film The Day of the Dolphin.
While Lilly’s research produced somewhat of a cult following, he was aiming to learn more about the human state of consciousness and its limits. Lilly’s research began in 1953 when he took at job with the National Institute of Mental Health. There he began studying how our brains work, what keeps it functioning and how it reacts to our environment. Lilly began toying around with sensory deprivation tanks to study the effects on the brain when all stimuli are removed. Stimuli in this case refers to vision and hearing. Lilly hoped that isolating these senses would prove that even without external stimuli, the brain and consciousness would continue to function.
Since research like this had never been done before, Lilly and his colleagues acted as the test subjects. Early designs of the tanks required them to be fully submerged in a water-filled tank wearing only a tight mask with a pipe for oxygen. Because of the uncomfortable state of having their heads wrapped in a tight neoprene fabric, the design evolved into the coffin-like tank design common today. Once the design proved more logical, Lilly began promoting the use of these tanks by sharing his experiences. Perhaps the most intriguing experience he shared with people he titled “First Conference of Three Beings” which is currently published on his website. Lilly recalls leaving behind his body in the tank and having a conference with three unknown entities “in a dimensionless space, the spaceless set of dimensions somewhere near the third planet of a small solar system dominated by a type-G star.” Was Lilly tripping or was this a legitimate experience? Who knows? However the act of floating in what feels like a zero-gravity tank caught on and is growing in popularity today. Today people “float” for different reasons. Most people float to reap the mental and physical benefits, though there are some who float as a shortcut to meditation and out of body experiences.
To gain a better understanding of how sensory deprivation tanks work, I decided I would need to get into the tank. I contacted Allison Walton, the owner of the Bay Area’s oldest float center called FLOAT located in Oakland. Allison opened FLOAT, which also acts as a constantly changing art space, in 2005 after she experienced a life-changing float twenty-five years ago. There are actually a couple spots in San Francisco that have float tanks, but none of the ones I found focused only on floating. I didn’t want to go to a spa that happened to have a tank. I wanted to talk to someone who actually knew what she was doing.
When I entered the space Allison greeted me with a glass of water and talked me through what I was going to do and what I could expect. She explained the types of tanks she had, which are manufactured by a San Diego company called Oasis. “Our tanks are the largest in the Bay Area. Everyone can fit in them,” says Allison. The white rectangular box is made of fiberglass with a vinyl inner liner. Allison explained that the solution, or water, used to float contains a high concentration of Epsom salt which increases the density of the solution causing a body to naturally float. “Average tanks require about 800 pounds of salt, but we use 1000 pounds,” Allison told me as she pointed to a stack of what looked like giant rice bags. “These tanks are also the most sound and light proof,” says Allison. “These don’t depend on the room it is in for a lightproof or soundproof float.”
She continued to explain what my brain might experience when it is disconnected from all stimuli. Though first-time floaters rarely completely “let go” and experience out of body experiences, it was likely that my brainwaves would slow down and enter the state of theta. Our brains experience five states of being; alpha, beta, theta, delta and gamma. In the beta state, our brain waves reflect a waking state and entirely conscious state. In the alpha state, our brain waves reflect a relaxed state. This usually happens when our eyes are closed. And theta, the state our brains are likely to enter while in the tank, is when our brain waves slow down and allow dreaming. We generally experience theta when we’re falling into a deep sleep or are awakening from a deep sleep. The theta state is also when lucid dreaming occurs. Some people even recall experiencing vivid visualizations comparable to visualizations caused by hallucinogenic drugs. “Some people go straight into the theta state, even during their first float. But the rest of us are mortal,” says Allison.
I finished drinking my water and headed upstairs to the second floor loft where I would enter a tank and “unplug” from the world. An hour later, I was not sure about what I had experienced. What I had just done was weird and I could not tell if removing myself from external stimuli affected me in any way. I only remember waking a couple times from a light sleep and before I knew it the hour was up. “It’s is a really weird thing,” says Allison. “Not everyone gets used to it and just fights the experience the whole time. I once had a friend that refused to let go of the handle and she exerted herself so much to prevent herself from floating that she eventually fell asleep.” Because our reactions to the tanks all differ in experience, the types of floats experienced differ as well. No two floats are ever the same. “Everyone’s brain is completely different,” says Allison. “Some people see crazy light shows or budding paisleys the second they close their eyes. Some people don’t fall asleep but just think.”
When I asked about the type of people that float, the answer I got surprised me. I honestly that it would be a small niche of people into odd alternative medicine. “When I opened, I thought there’d be a type of client,” says Allison. “But our clients are really busy people, business people or people with families. There really is no profile because we get all ages and all ethnicities.” Allison did mention that her clients do tend to be of the more creative type if anything. “Lots of people float to clear a mind block, whether it be doctors or artists or writers,” says Allison. “And every time someone comes to float because they need a new idea, the second they step out of the tank, they got it.”
The benefits of floating truly seem to be all over the grid. The benefits range from mental relaxation and rejuvenation, similar to the effects of a deep meditation, to physical relaxation, like entering a state of savasana. “We’re constantly reacting to stimuli in our environment, in particular to technology,” explains Allison. “Our bodies are doing things [like using technology] that humans aren’t designed for. We’re designed to be creative, thinking beings.” Floating is a way to unplug from it all. Today, floating promotes the entire and complete relaxation of our most complex organ, our brains. “For almost everyone, floating will be the only time we’re completely alone with ourselves since the womb,” says Allison.
It seems like Lilly’s isolation tanks are all grown up. Even the language is evolving from sensory deprivation chambers to isolation tanks to float tanks. “It’ll probably be another ten years before they’re actually called float tanks,” says Allison. Though the change in views on floatation therapy will take some time, Allison believes that we will soon be seeing float tanks, or “unplugging stations,” everywhere. We are continuously online and the growth of technology doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So in order to keep our heads screwed on while constantly receiving new information and the stress that follows, we need to find a way to disconnect. As crazy as paying to be shut into a dark, soundless water tank sounds, it may be one of the few ways to keep us sane.
Photos Courtesy of Allison
Written and filmed by Andrew Cullen
Photos by Jessica Christian
Stand at the end of Fourteenth Street in West Oakland. This neighborhood has seen the worst of Bay Area gentrification, and its reflection is in the glass that covers the sidewalks, flowing down into gutters, stretching into the distance. It sticks to the walls of buildings and the fronts of homes, where everything as tall as the average person is covered with decades of graffiti frescoes.
A leather recliner, like the one your grandfather used to sit in, is now tipped over on to the asphalt, lacerated from end to end, hemorrhaging foam into the storm drain.
There are no people here. There are signs of their presence, though there are merely only clues as to where they may have gone, yet the only sound is the static of the constant humming vibration of traffic from the overpass overhead.
Track homes are huddled, wall-to-wall, all the way down the street, only broken by a chain link fence surrounding a dirt lot where one of those houses burned to ground so many years ago.
But this lot is not vacant.
Tucked behind the trees lies a treasure. Shrouded in shrubbery sits a shack, only slightly smaller than a garden shed, fitted with a loft, a fire burning stove, a desk and an old grand piano.
Built from the ground up, Matt Christensen gathered as much materials as he could from the local dump, where he worked, and eventually piled up enough to begin building himself a home.
“I moved back here, and pitched a tent, and started collecting materials,” he says. “I worked in the dump at the time, so it was pretty easy to get building materials.”
Construction of the shack is an ongoing project, and now that Jake Wobig, Matt’s husband, moved in, the project is beginning to expand. They hope that soon, they will be able to install solar panels for electricity and piping for running water.
The San Francisco Bay Area is undergoing rapid changes in the wake of what some are calling the second “dot-com” boom. The rise of tech companies and their mass exodus from Silicon Valley to San Francisco is propelling the Northern California economy in ways that are only comparable to New York City at the dawn of the industrial age.
Of course, our golden city is less than fifty square miles, so when we see a great influx of residents, we also see the San Franciscan middle class begin to dwindle. While the lower class, is literally being pressure washed off of the sidewalks, and pushed back into the shadows to paint a picturesque portrait for app developers, and startup entrepreneurs.
For many, surviving in the Bay Area means resulting to drastic measures. Jake and Matt have found a way to dodge the fist of gentrification by building their home from what others saw as trash, in a vacant lot in West Oakland.
Historically, San Francisco has served as Mecca for a collection of people from no where. San Francisco is built to sustain the lonely; packed to the brim with dark alley pubs, SROs and one bedroom apartments.
And yet, for those who fall on the ends of humanity’s bell curve; those who cannot be so tightly fit into society’s little box of “normal,” San Francisco shines as a beacon of hope in the fog, a city wise beyond its years, nurturing the broken and the lost.
San Francisco is of course famous for being one of the most important LGBTQ rights hubs, and because of that, the city’s widespread greeting arms attract many young LGBTQ kids who have been shunned out of their homes in middle America.
Unfortunately, San Francisco isn’t the place it used to be, and many LGBTQ kids who make the pilgrimage here in the hopes of finding a LGBTQ community with open doors wind up with a reality check that knocks them into homelessness, addiction, or sexually transmitted disease.
According to the San Francisco Department of Human Services, as many as twenty-nine percent of San Francisco’s entire homeless population is LGBTQ.
Before meeting Matt and moving into their cozy West Oakland shack, Jake’s life almost became one for the statisticians.
“High School wasn’t the greatest,” Jake says, sitting in the office of the French café he now helps manage. “It made me like, mentally fucking crazy.”
He is not alone, but often living as a gay man in Idaho, it felt that way. He remembered the feeling he had when Idaho lawmakers pushed for a bill that would legally protect police officers, firefighters, doctors, teachers, and nurses from providing any service to gay men and women, based on their religious beliefs. “Shit like that” he says, “it impacted me a lot.”
“I was more than out,” Jake says, reminiscent of his younger years. “I showed no fucking mercy. The hatred people would show towards me would just fuel me.”
His memories of his adolescence are ones that one may hear echoed on the nightly news. He remembered being bullied, “getting called names, getting shoved around” for the clothes he wore.
Jake always chose to bite back. “I would just make it even more extreme,” he says. “In ninth grade it got to the point where I would just wear full on drag makeup. I would do it on the bus. I had this scarf that I would pull out and pull down as a skirt. I would always just piss people off.”
“I was just an obnoxious, in-your-face kid; I hated everything around me,” he says. “It was always just one extreme after another. I’m a lot more mellow now though.”
It was after high school, when he got a solid friend base, that things weren’t as bad, he says. “But Idaho still just drove me insane. I couldn’t stand it there.”
After high school, Jake got a job as a custodian in a hospital kitchen. “It seriously sucked,” he said. “I was living paycheck to paycheck, in a city I grew up in my entire life, for the most part, that I really hated.”
With that thought in his head and three hundred dollars in his pocket, Jake hopped on a Greyhound bus, and headed west. “I decided there was nothing really to lose if I left,” he said. “And I have not gone back.”
After bouncing around with a few friends in Portland, Jake grabbed the last twenty dollars he had to his name and jumped another bus to San Francisco.
He came to San Francisco with no place to stay, no job and no flowers in his hair; yet he fought to make it work. He had one friend in the city who let him stay at her Inner Richmond house, but it was not a free ride.
“I had to find a way to come up with three-hundred and fifty bucks and find a job for an apartment,” Jake says. “It was all stressful for a minute, but I met some people, and did some porn to get by.”
San Francisco is one of the few cities in which a young man can “get by,” legally, using only sex. Later that year, Jake appeared in a “sex theatre” performance at the Folsom Street Fair, where Cum & Glitter hosted a fetish themed play.
“I happened to be in the incest act, where I had an older brother,” he said. Later, the director of the show gave Jake a room in his apartment in the Richmond District. “Porn and sex work pays a lot of money and thats how I was able to pull that off,” Jake said.
Shortly after moving in with his new roommate, Jake was finally introduced to someone who would make his stay in San Francisco more permanent.
Matthew Espinosa met Jake at Jake’s Richmond apartment and based on nothing but “faith and trust” offered Jake a job at an unsuspecting establishment: a coffee shop.
According to Jake, Espinosa’s boss even told him “it’s your ass if it doesn’t work out”.
“That was great,” Jake says. “I felt really grateful for that.” Without Espinosa’s generosity, things could be very different for Jake in San Francisco. Unfortunately Espinosa moved to Southern California shortly after, where he committed suicide in February.
A mutual friend from Jake’s time in Portland suggested that he and Matt Christensen meet, since they both lived in the Bay Area.
They did, and after a short time, they moved in together; into Matt’s shack in West Oakland.
Although their humble abode is expanding, there is still no certainty of how long the honeymoon will last. According to Matt, the rightful owners of the lot have a defunct address and a disconnected phone, making their return unlikely, but in the realm of possibility.
“I started looking into the legal parts of it, and how we would eventually be able to claim it,” Matt said. “I looked into how adverse possession works, and its basically just a fancy word for squatters rights.”
The shack is built primarily from wood collected from Matt’s old job at the dump. The only portion of the house that was purchased, was some roof insulation and a ceiling pipe for the chimney they have connected to a small iron fireplace in their living room, which all together cost them about three hundred dollars.
Neither Matt, nor Jake knew anything about architecture or carpentry before building the shack, but rented books from the local library to teach themselves.
In the future, they hope to expand the compound by adding a second shack, and a compost outhouse, which “sounds gross, but is actually great for gardening,” according to Matt.
In their front yard, they have two planter boxes which they have grown edible vegetables in, alongside a synthetic beehive. “It’d be nice to have something other than microwave pizza… not that microwave pizza is bad.” Matt said.
They have dabbled with the idea of installing solar panels to generate electricity, but are weary because they are both away from home most of the day, and fear that they may get stolen.
The house itself is built around Matt’s old grand piano, which he claims was “actually built into the plan.”
Matt collected as many items from the dump as he found interesting and brought them home. If the boys did not find a use for it, it usually was simply nailed to the wall and used for decoration. The house is littered with family pictures from people they have never met, fragments of the past lives of those who never were.
The “off-the-grid” nature of their cottage may seem extreme, or weird, but it is exactly that weirdness that makes it their home.
Now, stand back at the end of 14th Street. Look past the flowing stream of broken windshields and see through the dull vibration of broken dreams. Imagine the times when one could see children sliding in the park, throwing footballs in the street, and families having barbecues on their driveways. Imagine a time when the homes on the street bore no graffiti on their walls and when a kid could lay on the grass and imagine pictures in the clouds.
Do your best to see this while you can, because soon enough, even the shadows of neighborhoods like this will soon be bought out and replaced with parking spaces, and temp positions and the quintessential Bay Area feeling may be gone.
So, whether you are here to stay, or just passing through, look closely at the faces of the destitute begging for change, listen hard to the bus drivers who carry a bus packed with broken hymns, and as you walk through the streets remember to breathe it in, let it become part of you. Remember each star in the sky, hanging heavy above us all and know that although like the stars, we may seem to drift through the darkness alone, we all still have a home.
Written by Melissa Landeros
Photos by Tony Santos
Thick, coarse, dirty, unbearable to get around—SF State design students could not help but complain about having to work with such a difficult material for clothing. The royal purple and gold SF State banners that span all around campus were taken down from their poles and placed in the hands of the design students from the Apparel Design and Merchandising department (ADM). The students were given a task that would challenge their design skills. They were to create garments for Runway 2014: Provoke, an annual fashion show that the Fashion Network Association, a student-run organization, helps produce.
“We saw the material and were like what are we going to do with this,” says Soraya Davallou a design student. Aside from the material being an unknown fiber there were restrictions that accompanied the design process. The concept of “Universal Design” was set in place, meaning the construction of the garments needed to be unisex, and wearable for any shape or size.
The students’ work-space was comprised of long tables, sewing machines, and dress forms. The student designers scrambled to pin, sew, steam, and put together their purple and gold garments.
Nevertheless, the ADM students sought out this challenge in full force. Some manipulated the banners into becoming a softer material to work with by ironing it. Others dealt with broken sewing machine needles as well as edges that were rough and left unfinished.
“I really wanted the SF State logo to stand out in order to show school pride,” says Helen Nguyen. The designer and her partner did not like the restrictions of the designs but overcame them by adding adjustable straps to the garment in order to fit it in the one-size-fits-all spectrum.
While some students honed in on school pride, others focused on creating garments that would be considered unisex. Panphila Tan and her partner did just that by constructing a vest and a quilt that was adjustable with Velcro.
After struggling with such difficult material the design students executed seven garments that range from a modern kimono, a zoot suit and, a motorcycle inspired jacket and pant. From the workroom to the runway, the looks will be showcased at the San Francisco Design Center May 1st.
Written by Jessica Mendoza
Photos by Gavin McIntyre
As you walk down the streets in the Marina district, every corner you turn is bursting with restaurants showcasing the finest meals and small boutique shops that carry the cutest clothes. The Marina is the perfect place where twenty and thirty-somethings can unwind from their busy lives to enjoy a cocktail at a sleek lounge. But what people may not realize is that the Marina district is also home to the San Fran Skeeball League.
Yes, a skeeball league.
The San Fran Skeeball League take place at Bar None, located on Union Street. The inside of the bar is like a frat boy’s fantasy home. There is foosball, pool, boxing games, beer pong tables, television and of course, a skeeball machine.
On February 6, 2014, “San Fran Skeeball League” held the first game of the skeeball season. The league coordinated by Ty Hyland and Sean Pratt, has become one the newest attractions in the Marina district where people can drink cheap beers, engage in casual conversation, and play skeeball all at once.
Teams sport names like Ball Don’t Kill My Vibe, ASTRO Balls, SKEENUTZ and The Big LaBallSkees
“Its super fun” says Amanda Hoffman of The Big LaBallSkees, “It’s competitive, but we’re here to have a good time.”
The mastermind behind the Skeeball League, Giovanni Marcantoni, wanted to create something competitive and fun for people to enjoy.
“We wanted to create a sociable environment to distract people from their problems,” says Marcantoni. Before he created the Skeeball League, Marcantoni and his friends established a bocce ball league in Baltimore. Marcantoni and his friends played bocce outside in the grass, but weather conditions sometimes put a damper on the bocce game forcing them to cancel.
“It was too cold outside,” says Marcantoni about playing bocce. People were also getting hurt and injured during the game. The bocce league’s problems inspired Marcantoni to create a league that is indoors in a bar where people can drink and play games without traveling anywhere else. Marcantoni branched the skeeball league into different cities on the East coast. He has expanded the league to Manhattan, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Charleston.
After a successful run on the East coast, Marcantoni decided to move the league West. Marcantoni added cities Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco—the newest city in the league.
Pratt explored the city to find the perfect bar to hold the skeeball games. The problem in their search was no bar already housed a skeeball machine. That was until they came across the Marina and found Bar None. It was perfect bar, already carrying gaming machines and already with the perfect laid-back atmosphere.
“They help us out by allowing us to have the Skeeball League,” says Pratt, “We help them bring more people to the bar.”
As they finally settled on a location, it was time to spread the news about the new league in the city. They created their website sanfranskee.com where people can register and create a team.
“It’s a good rational mix of people,” says Justin Beann, a league member of team The Artist Formerly Known As Free Ball.
“Anyone can join and play,” Pratt said. “You don’t have to be perfect.”
So how do you join the San Fran Skeeball League? Anyone can register on the website. Each team has to have a captain and a group between six-to-twelve members with each person paying a fifty dollar entrance fee.
“We don’t turn people away,” says Meg Nash, another member. “We want people to come here and make lasting friendships.”
Of course, whoever signs up to play in the league has to come up with a name for their team. People put “Skee” in their teams names. Like the guys from A. SKEE Slater who of course name their team from the popular “Saved By The Bell” television series. Other teams give themselves more progressive names like R.W.A which stands for Rollers with Attitude. Each member has names like Skeeyonce Rolls, MsSkeeElliot, Run DMSkee, Big Skeeballs and Andre Skeethousand.
“We wanted to have names to intimidate other teams,” says Skeeyonce Rolls about her teams choosing their alter-ego identities.
Not only does Hyland and Pratt host the tournament but they join in the game. When David Miller was the only member from his team that showed up, Hyland and few others jumped in and played with him.
The Skeeball League is far beyond different than other tournaments. The league is created for people to come together and have the time of their lives.
“Most of these folks just come here and have a good time.” says Hyland.
You are acutely aware of a bang and a roar, a drum cymbal between a ticking beat traveling from your left to your right. A toad croaks amidst the mire beneath you, a deep hooting owl hidden in the trees above you. Chirps and a buzzing of a busy forest evade your surroundings. Silence. Water trickles off of the walls, a child’s utterance coming towards you from the distance. Ascending high and low, far and near, a makeshift symphony heightens your auditory senses as you sink into the pitch-black world consuming the remains of your sightless perception. You are experiencing the Audium
“I gradually fell into a trance state where I was somewhat awake and somewhat asleep,” says Ben Slater, twenty-five. “The fragment of noises brought memories in and out of my mind and made me more aware of time.”
As you pass the ticket booth and make your way into the foyer, you at once cannot help but to look all around you. Moving images of waterfalls stream across the walls and the echo of dripping liquid takes hold of your auditory senses. From the moment you enter the Audium building the experience has begun.
Once eight-thirty strikes you will assemble into a faintly lit room and choose from the forty-nine plastic folding chairs set up in a sphere around the dome-like theater. The lights begin to dim little by little until you find yourself in complete darkness. For the next ninety minutes, if you can handle it, you will be entrapped by a series of noises. Not quite together, yet not far apart, from children laughing to puddles splashing a chain of sounds bring you into a new perceptual awareness.
In the 1950’s, space was still an unexplored element of music composition due to the lack of audio technology available. Composer Stan Shaff and equipment designer Doug McEachern shared an idea that space was capable of revealing a new musical language.
Together the SF State alumni took their idea and made it reality. In 1967 the first Audium location opened up, the only space of its kind constructed specifically for sound movement and utilizing the entire environment as a compositional tool. At that time the performance was created through only forty-four speakers.
By the time the present location opened up on Bush Street in 1975, the space was installed with a floating floor and 136 speakers hanging above the audience and embedded into the walls and floors.
“What you are hearing in there is me at a board, changing and altering where the sound is coming from, the intensities, the speed in which it’s traveling,” says Shaff. “The board is an instrument of space. I am literally composing my work, which is on a hard disc in a separate part of the building that comes into the board and I then distribute it into the different speakers around the room.”
Today, with 176 speakers placed specifically around the custom made structure with slanted and protruding walls, the audience is carried into pitch-blackness, allowing no visual awareness, to hear a sequence of noises travel over and under and everywhere in between.
After nearly a half century, Shaff continues to show up every Friday and Saturday at eight o’clock to compose the performance for audiences young and old, both newcomers and returners looking for something new to expand their minds and views.
“With technology has come this world of sound,” said Shaff’s son and employee Dave. “The world used to be a lot quieter than it is now.”
Surround sound, Imax movie theatres, and the boundaries of music being broken down constantly have changed the way we think. Technology has pushed younger generations to crave new ways of thinking and to explore the unknown.
“People nowadays are searching out and looking for that experience with a kick and this is definitely that,” says Dave.
The performance at Audium is unique, no doubt. You are forced to see with your ears and accept the both harsh and delicate reverberations moving through you, transforming from distant clatter to in-your-face bangs.
“You can’t follow one thought for too long because the audio will take you somewhere else,” says Aaron Strick, twenty-four. “It was a nice blend of internal feelings that someone else is guiding and affecting. Its just a rare experience to have.”
Halfway through the performance the lights turn up just enough for your visual senses to return and for five minutes you and the strangers around you sit staring around at the dark images of each other’s bodies and the hanging speakers above you. For those that aren’t grasping or enjoying the composition, this is the time to exit.
“Initially we weren’t sure, and early on more people were uncomfortable with the darkness and the atmosphere,” Says Stan.
For now, Audium continues to use a recorded audio sequence in which Shaff changes every year to year and a half. But Shaff, his son, and McEachern have bigger plans for the future with more elements to add to the mix. Live performers and greater three-dimensional sounds are a hope for the staff.
Learning to use the soundboard is a daunting task, but one Stan plans to teach his son very soon. Dave, who has been around Audium his entire life and even lends to the performance with audio recordings of him as a child as part of the piece, plans to continue and expand further what his father has started.
“I look at Audium as being only a seedling, like a start up of the idea of space, immersion, sound movement and the control of that motion,” says Shaff. “I imagine it only getting more evolved and seeing more places like the Audium popping up eventually.”
You can experience Audium for yourself, every Friday and Saturday night beginning promptly at eight-thirty.